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Archive for the ‘Tried and True Cookbook for Two’ Category

2017-02-01-10-14-59

Saturday evening I didn’t feel very well. I had the sweats, chills, headache, dizziness, fever, coughing, no appetite, etc., etc., etc.. On Sunday, I knew. It was the flu! Shoulda gotten the vaccine. Shoulda coulda… didn’t. Suffering the consequences.

What’s my first instinctive reaction? Make chicken broth! I’m fairly sensitive to over-the-counter medication like Tylenol and Motrin, so I use them only in dire emergencies. I treat coffee the same way. I did take a Tylenol once on Sunday and once on Monday, but that was it. So yesterday, after dropping off my little one at daycare, I went to the PA Supermarche and came out with a big tray of chicken drumsticks and several packages of chicken carcasses, in addition to carrots, a leek, and a tomato. I usually roast chicken before I make stock, but I just put the chicken into a big stock pot, filled it with cold water, and let the magic happen. Actually, the drumsticks were so plentiful that I didn’t even have room for the carcases, and had to start out with two stock pots before eventually consolidating to one in the last hour of cooking. I keep fantasizing about getting an even larger stock pot… but apartment living does not lend itself towards stowing huge items like that.

I use different things in my stocks every time, depending on what I have on hand and what’s on sale in the store. This time, my ingredients were:

  • a large package of chicken drumsticks – chicken stocks taste richer with some skin and bone in it. And fat. Just a little goes a long way – I skim whenever I see foam to make my stocks as clear as possible.
  • three packages of chicken carcases – I tried using only carcases one time, but there wasn’t enough meat on them to overcome the flavour of gelatin. It was ok to use as a base for soups or stews, but not enjoyable on its own. Hence the drumsticks this time.
  • 1 big tomato – I often just use tomato paste, which we always have, but since I was specifically making this as a health restorative this time, I decided to use the real thing.
  • 2 celery stalks
  • several large carrots
  • 1 leek – make sure to slice in half length-wise and carefully wash between all the leaves, since they are often full of dirt.
  • 1 onion with skin intact – I trimmed the two ends, but the yellow/orange onion skin adds a delightful natural colour to stock. I’m always disappointed when the onion skins are too mildewy to use, but this time the dry outer layers were in excellent shape.
  • 5-6 garlic gloves, crushed – I’ve always loved a lot of garlic.
  • a couple bay leaves
  • a bunch of green peppercorns
  • a couple sprinkles of red pepper flakes – helps bring a brightness to the stock. I don’t add enough to make it spicy, just to give it a little bit of an undertone, especially because I was planning on making it a very hearty stock.
  • about 2 T. – 3 T. sake – normally I’d just use the white wine we keep in the fridge for cooking… but it was all gone, so I had to make do with sake, which was excellent. Just enough to bring out the tomato in the broth; I don’t like broths that taste strongly of booze.

This stock was completely salt-free, and tastes magnificent (to my traumatized olfactory senses). It simmered for a total of about five hours – 3 hours with only chicken, then 2 hours with everything else added. I kept topping off with more cold water as it cooked down, and skimmed constantly. When I am sick, smelling cooked fat in my food makes me nauseous. So I work hard to ensure my broths are very clear and as fat-free as possible in the end. So once I bring the water to an initial boil, I reduce heat to a gentle simmer for the rest of the cooking time, skimming constantly, so I don’t emulsify the fat into the broth. I removed all the used ingredients at the end, then strained through a fine mesh sieve to reveal a beautiful, golden broth. I ended up with about 16 cups of gorgeousness, not including the mugs of broth I drank while cooking.

2017-02-01-10-30-43

Today, I was rewarded for my meticulous work yesterday by finding that my chilled broth had gelatinized quite stiffly. The consistency of Jello jigglers. Perfect! Mission successful. There’s nothing like slaving over a huge pot of stock for a day, and coming out a total winner in the end. It was very easy to spoon out into a mug and microwave until I had a steaming mug of excellent, nutrient-rich, delicious, satisfying, hearty, homemade chicken broth.

Hopefully this will help me fight the flu – which is really, really, REALLY not fun (get the vaccine, everyone!) – and if I can coax my daughter to drink it, too, maybe it will help her, as well. We like to share in this family. Because sharing is caring!

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2016-11-16-08-26-53

I’ve come a long way since my college days of microwaving Quaker Oats in a washed-out takeout container for breakfast every morning because I couldn’t afford anything else. Now I buy premium Red Mill steel-cut oats. Only the best!

I base my oatmeal on Alton Brown’s recipe. I think he wrote it when he was getting into healthy eating.

First, you melt a pat of butter in a small pot on med-low heat (it’s number 3 on my stove). Too low and the oats will not toast; too high and the oats will burn while cooking. My husband doesn’t like oatmeal, so it’s just for me and the little one. She eats it because of the brown sugar sprinkled on top. She will even abandon a bagel to eat her oatmeal.

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For 1.5 people, I use a rounded 1/3 cup of steel cut oats. Stir it into the melted butter and periodically stir it around to toast it for about 4 minutes. It’s best when it smells toasty and the butter’s been mostly absorbed into the oats. The colour will darken.

I boil water. I’m a tea drinker, and enjoy a cup of tea first thing in the morning and also in the afternoon. I’ve been thinking of restocking my tea stash, and trying to justify shelling out the clams for a tin of Mariage Freres. I’m yearning for an earl grey with a lot of bergamot in it. Ordering a bunch of Mighty Leaf teas also seems like a luxury right now, too, though not quite on the level as Mariage Freres.

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When the oats are toasty, I add a little more than a cup into the oats. It will bubble and splatter a little, so be careful! If it doesn’t do this, the oats weren’t hot enough. Then I set the timer for 20 minutes and make my cup of tea. I like tea served to me hot, and I add sugar and creamette, but I wait until it’s nearly lukewarm to actually drink it. 20 minutes cools it perfectly. I do not touch the oats. I go play with my little one. I get dressed. I read my facebook updates.

After 20 minutes, add the buttermilk and milk mixture. I now use almost 1/3 cup liquid, equal parts buttermilk and whole milk. It will look soupy…but that’s ok (as our culinary educator would say). Stir to combine, but don’t stir too much. The oatmeal might stick a  little to the sides of the pot – just scrape the bottom and sides well. I just use a teaspoon for all of this. Set the timer for 10 minutes.

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Once the oatmeal is done, I sprinkle a little cinnamon on top as I turn off the heat. I stir it in, scraping the bottom and sides. Once it’s portioned into bowls, if it’s too thick, I stir in more milk. It also helps cool it for the little one. Then I use a fork to scrape brown sugar on top. I keep a small container of brown sugar just for this purpose.

The finished oatmeal has a nice chewy texture and a delicious toasted flavour that you miss if you didn’t toast the oats enough before adding the water. It’s a healthy, economical, satisfying breakfast that lasts me ’til lunch and keeps me warm in the winter. The only downside is the long cooking time in the morning. I like that the dishes are easy to clean; just soak the pot while you’re eating, and it’ll be easy to wash everything out with a scrubber sponge afterwards.

Nothing sexier than a spoonful of oatmeal in the morning.

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???????????????????????????????Americans often express surprise when I tell them how hot summer is in Montreal, as if the entire country of Canada is a solid block of ice year-round. My NJ relatives don’t understand that it gets up to the low 30s C and that many of the Montreal buildings are old and don’t have air conditioning. Including my office. And my apartment.

One of the brilliant Korean summer dishes is naeung myun, a cold noodle soup served with an icy broth. On a sweltering day, this meal is sooooo refreshing and not too hard to make.

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???????????????????????????????I like salmon. We like salmon. And we can always find fresh salmon at the public market (the fishmonger at Atwater is my favourite).

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???????????????????????????????I haven’t been posting because, frankly, I haven’t been eating much. My doctor upped a prescription I was taking, which robbed me not only of energy and strength (had to nap twice a day and when not at work, spent the rest of my time in bed), but also lost my appetite, made me hypersensitive to food odours, and left me feeling oh so unwell for over a month. But fortunately, I seem to be adjusting to the damned pills (FINALLY!), and am back to eating and of course cooking as per usual.

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It’s been a long time since I’ve made steak. One of my favourite recipes is steak au poivre, which I found a long time ago in the now defunct Gourmet magazine while visiting my parents-in-law for Christmas. It’s a great recipe. Not many ingredients, not difficult. Tastes awesome.

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I love uni, and when I saw a couple itty bitty sea urchins at the Jean Talon market, I got them, thinking to use them as a side dish for some sous-vide salmon. But as it turns out, my husband does not like uni, so I saved them for myself for breakfast. Which just happened to be ramen. Not exactly the best of beds for the sea urchin, but I ate them all first, anyway, so it was all good.

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